Tonight at 7pm ET on BTN, we'll get to see the Penn State Nittany Lions on ice for the first time since the season opener against Army, way back in October. And here's a bit of synergy: instead of one of the worst teams in college hockey (Army), we get the consensus #1 team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Gophers have made 20 Frozen Four appearances - twenty! - and won 5 National Championships. They're hockey royalty, and have been since before you and I were born. Not coincidentally, Gopher fans have the arrogance to go with such credentials. It's unsettling to read such hubris, frankly: as a Penn Stater, I'm the one accustomed to being arrogant, not the one being lampooned. It's an adjustment I've struggled with.
But last night our Lions crept up on the rodents, and had a chance to knock them off. Tied at two in the 3rd period, Penn State had two chances to take the lead. A Penn State forward stole the puck in the neutral zone, and fired a pass cross-ice to a streaking team mate for what would have been a 1-on-Zero shot at the Gopher goalie - but the pass went wide. Minnesota's goalie left the net, chased the puck into the corner, and cleared it himself. Then, a few minutes later, freshman Ricky DeRosa got another turnover in the neutral zone on a penalty kill, and fed Tommy Olzyck down the left hand side for a second 1-on-Zero - but Tommy couldn't get the bouncing puck to settle, and the chance was missed.
Minnesota took the lead, 3-2, with just over four minutes to play. Needing to maximize every scoring chance we could get, Penn State instead took its 6th penalty on the night. Although we killed off all two minutes, the boys weren't left with much time. Still, they pulled Eamon McAdam in the final minute, and nearly tied it up when Matt Williamson's canon from the point deflected juuuust wide of the net - only about 2 inches from tying the game - in the final seconds. And the Gophers escaped with the victory, 3-2.
Tonight, though - tonight we get even, and notch our first official Big Ten Hockey conference victory*. Tune in tonight at 7pm on BTN, and then stick here for the open thread.
*Uhhh, Minnesota is really freaking good. They controlled the action for most the night Sunday, outshot us 45-29 or so, and just....they're pretty darn good, and we're in our second season of Division 1 hockey. So this is not a prediction. But, we'll have a real good time.